Door of Faith – Lesson Six

Covenant of Promise


In this lesson we will witness another major move God made to accomplish His purpose to develop children for His eternal kingdom.  God made this move because a crisis developed similar to the situation in the days of Noah.  The crisis developed when only a few people existed on earth with the quality of faith necessary to accept God’s covenants.  The aim of this lesson is to understand how the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants has remained viable through the past four thousand years.  God’s people are spiritual descendants of Abraham.  God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham’s seed permits Christians from all races of people to receive our inheritance of the blessings “in Christ.”  Heb. 6:13-20.  The blessings in Christ, when combined with our faith, is our assurance of our eternal inheritance of eternal life in God’s eternal kingdom (Matt. 19:29; 25:34; Eph. 1:13, 14; I Pet. 1:3-5).


Although this will not be a history lesson, we must start at a time in history and a place on earth to properly understand the reasons for each of God’s major moves.  God’s story about His relationship with Abram and Sarai started about two thousand years before Jesus Christ was born to a virgin named Mary, who was a descendant of Abram (Luke 1:30-33).  They lived in Ur of the Chaldeans, modern day Arabia, with Terah, Abram’s father, who worshiped idols (Gen. 11:27-31; Josh. 24:2).  Abram was able to free himself from the “box of life” in which he was born.  We are not told how God helped Abram, Sarai and Lot to know and have faith in Him – rather than other gods.  We do know, during their lives, a situation developed similar to what had developed in the days of Noah.  People, worldwide, had lost faith in the covenants God had offered Noah and his sons and their families.

We only have one historical record of the peoples’ behavior that populated the earth following Noah’s time and before Abraham was called out of Ur.  According to their own wisdom, the people tried to secure a name for themselves by building a sky scraper on “a plain in Shinar.”  See Gen. 11:1-9.  It is interesting to note that the tallest tower on earth now stands in this same geographical part of the world.  This 830 meter tall building, 320 meters taller than the next tallest, is in Dubai, UAE.  The people of Shinar chose to seek satisfaction for their innate needs by their own wisdom.  God intervened in their goal to build “a tower that reaches up to heaven,” by giving different groups of families a new language.  This short narrative reveals their “mind set” about how they were seeking satisfaction for their God-given needs for security.

All people use most of our time and energy seeking goals we believe will offer some satisfaction for our innate needs of security, sociability, sexual relations with the opposite sex and achievement that promises honor and glory.  Glory is translated from the Greek word, doxa.  It literally means “to have a good view of.”  We try to present ourselves, along with that which is ours, in a manner we hope will give us praise from other people.  This is how we satisfy our need for glory.  From the day people are born all over the world they seek praise, glory and honor, along with their inherent physical needs while living in their bodies.  When they do not know or have faith in God’s covenants that offer them satisfaction for these needs, they use their own wisdom about choosing the goals they believe will offer satisfaction.  In the generations of people who did not have faith in God’s covenants, we see the results in God’s story about Noah, Abraham and Moses.  In each of these crises God moved to save the few people who had faith.  He did this so His purpose in creation could be achieved in them and in future generations for His glory and theirs.  It is a Father/son relationship.  The relationship must result in glory for both parties.

Jesus asked, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain praise that comes from the only God?”  John 5:44.  Jesus did not condemn people for seeking glory from others.  His question was this:  If God is offering you eternal praise and glory as His son in His kingdom; how can you say you believe Him, when you make no effort to receive His praise that will result in glory for you?  In other words, God offers Christians the glorious role of beings His “sons and daughters” even now for the satisfaction of the need He created in us for our glory (II Cor. 6:18).  Still people desperately seek the full satisfaction of their need for glory from people only.  This is why Jesus asked, “How can you believe?”

God always offered His covenants for the satisfaction of why and how He created mankind.  See the list of faithful people in Hebrews, Chapter Eleven.  This is a list of people who lived on earth from Abel, the son of Adam, until the first century A. D.  The focus of their faith was in God’s covenants.  They believed He knew why and how He had created them; therefore, He was offering them covenants to satisfy the needs He created in them (Matt. 6:25-34).  They understood the tribulation of living in a physical body with the knowledge of good and evil.  They knew they must die (Gen. 2:17; I Cor. 15:22).  Consequently, they knew they must focus their faith in their resurrection from the grave, a new spiritual body and a new heaven and earth – “the home of righteousness.”  See Acts 4:2; I Cor. 15:42-44; II Pet. 3:11-13.  They hoped to have satisfaction for their innate needs of social acceptance with God, peace within themselves, plus honor and glory when Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven again.  See John 14:1-4; Rom. 2:6-11; I Pet. 1:7; I John 3:1-3.  Mankind’s faith in God’s covenants was the one element in people God accepted for their righteousness.  This is the way God, who is holy and righteous, is willing to fellowship people whose righteousness is actually like filthy rags in comparison to His  (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:21-26).

The faith crisis during Abraham’s time was the same as it was when God drowned all but eight people during Noah’s time.  Following His drastic move to protect the people of faith, God made a covenant for all people that He would not destroy all life by flood water again (Gen. 9:8-17).  The rainbow is God’s reminder for Him to keep this covenant.  God is faithful to keep His covenants, even when it called for His Son’s death on the cross to redeem His people from sin and death (Matt. 26:42; Rom. 3:3, 21-26).  God is also just and faithful to protect His people from those who willfully reject His kingdom (Heb. 12:28, 29).  Therefore, just as God made a move to protect Noah and His family, He made a decisive move based on the faith of Abram.  He separated Abram, Sarai and Lot from their families and friends.  Even more so, God made covenants with Abraham that divided people into those who had “citizenship in Israel” and the rest of the people on earth.  The Apostle Paul explained God’s move to the church:

Therefore, remember that formerly you were Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men) – remember at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenant of promise, without hope and without God in the world.  Eph. 2:11, 12

Viewing the world from the Israelites’ point of view, all other people on earth were ethnics.  This is the Greek word translated “Gentiles.”  This division, from a physical point of view, continued from the time of the narrative in Gen. 12:1-3 and continued until God called Cornelius and his household in Acts 10:48.  The following are the historical details of the development of the covenant God offered Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Please read the scriptures.  The covenant was multiplied and amplified in content over a period of time based on Abraham’s faith response to God:

Gen. 12:1-3. This covenant would develop a nation through Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac.  The new nation became fully functional in the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob, the second son of Isaac.  Abraham was a blessed person physically and spiritually because of his faith “that God had power to do what He promised.”  Rom. 4:21.  The people who recognized Abraham’s relationship with God were blessed.  Those who did not were cursed (Gen. 15:1).

13:14-17.      Numberless descendants, status and land areas were included in the covenant.

15:4, 5.          Abram was promised an heir by Sarah, even though they were getting too old.  Through their offspring a population would be born that could not be counted.

15:13.            Israel’s 400 year mistreatment as slaves in Egypt was revealed to Abram; however, after the sins of the Amorites “reached its full measure,” Israel would come back to Canaan in their fourth generation.  Egypt would be punished.

17:1-3.          All the foregoing was reconfirmed by “God Almighty,” based on Abram’s faith according to this scripture.  The confirmation was contingent on Abraham walking before God in a blameless manner.  God counted him as blameless because of his faith (Gen. 15:6).

17:4-8.          Abram’s name was changed to Abraham because the covenant was expanded to make him “the father of many nations.”  An “everlasting possession” of all the land of Canaan was included in the covenant for Abraham’s descendants.

17:9-14.        Physical circumcision was a special covenant.  It included all Israelite males and their male servants.  Circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham.  It was a specific sign for identifying people who were being counted righteous in God’s sight based on their faith in the doctrine of justification by faith.  Circumcision had nothing to do with counting a person as righteous, it was a seal.  This seal signified the person had already been counted righteous because of his faith in God’s covenant.  See Rom. 4:6-11.

17:15-17.      Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah.  This identified her as the mother of nations.  She would mother a son by Abraham.  This couple, who had not been able to have children together, had faith “God was able” to cause them to produce an offspring (Rom. 4:18-25).  Christians not only believe God’s covenants, our faith is that He is able to do what He promises.

17:17-19.      The covenants God made with Abraham were established with Sarah’s son, Isaac, as an “everlasting covenant” for his descendants (Gen. 26:2-6, 24).  The same covenants were not offered to the other children Abraham fathered.  Ishmael, Abraham’s child by Hagar, was blessed as the father of twelve rulers who would form a great nation; however, he was not given an everlasting covenant (Gen. 16:7-15; 17:20, 23).

22:1-14.        God tested Abraham’s faith by commanding him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.  After he stood the test of his faith up to the point of drawing back his knife to kill his son, an angel of the Lord spoke directly to Abraham from heaven to re-establish the promises in God’s covenants once more (Gen. 22:15-18).  James explained how Abraham’s “faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.  You see a person is justified by what he does and not faith alone.’”  Jas. 2:22-24.  When a Christian’s faith is made complete by testing, the substance of the focus of his or her faith being tested becomes a part of their identity and “spiritual box of life.”  God’s people are “children of promise.”

28:10-15.      The covenant God established with Abraham and re-established with Isaac was also established with Jacob, the second born son of Isaac and Rebekah.

32:22-30.      Jacob left Paddan Aram with his large family.  While traveling toward Bethel he encountered “a man” who changed his name to Israel.  “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”  Gen. 32:28.

The number of faithful descendants of Abraham had become almost extinct when God sent Moses to bring physical Israel out of Egypt.  The following scriptures will give us a broad overview of God working with Abraham’s offspring from the time He changed Jacob’s name to Israel until He decided it was necessary to make physical Israel “subject to guardians and trustees.”  Gal. 4:1-5.

Gen. 45:4-7.       God sent Joseph to Egypt as a slave; “to preserve for you a remnant on earth and save your lives by a great deliverance.”

Gen. 46:2-4.       “And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, ‘Jacob! Jacob!’  ‘Here I am,‘ he replied.  ‘I am God, the God of your father,’ He said.  ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.  I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again.  And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

Ex. 4:22.               430 years after God made His covenants with Abraham, God sent Moses to bring physical Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3:7-10; 6:2-8; Gal. 3:17).  God’s message for Pharaoh:  “Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says:  Israel is My firstborn son, and I told you, Let My son go, so he may worship Me.’”

Ex. 19:5, 6.           Israel camped in the Desert of Sinai after God set them free by destroying Pharaoh’s army in the sea (Ex. 14:21, 22, 26).  God called Moses up to His presence on the mountain and dictated this covenant for Israel.  “Now if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Ex. 32:1-4.           Israel broke this covenant before Moses got down from Mt. Sinai.  They had already been grumbling against Moses and God and they continued to do so for 40 years (Ex. 14:10-12; 16:2, 3).

Israel’s rebellion created another crisis; consequently, God made another major move for developing sons of God in His eternal kingdom (Heb. 2:10).  He changed the order of the priesthood; consequently, the covenant and the category of law (Heb. 7:12).  God replaced the Melchizedek Priesthood with the Levitical Priesthood.  The express purpose of the Law God gave Moses was for convicting Israel of their sins (Rom.3:19, 20).  This also changed the way God fellowshipped His people, but it did not change His covenants with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The promises were spoken to Abraham and His seed.  The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person who is Christ.  What I mean is this:  The Law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.  For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in His grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.  What then was the purpose of the Law?  It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred has come.  The Law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.  Gal. 3:16-19

God’s “children of promise” continued to live by faith in God’s covenants with Abraham from Moses to Christ.  New covenants were offered during the period of the Levitical Priesthood that also required the Israelites’ faith (Deut. 28:1, 2: 29:1).  This priesthood, the covenants and the laws served physical Israel in a manner similar to the role of a schoolmaster over a hostel of children (Rom. 10:5; Heb. 7:11).  God used this priesthood from the time of Moses until the first Pentecost after Jesus returned to heaven.  The inheritance God promised Abraham’s “children of promise” was, and presently is, “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Eph. 1:3.  “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath.”  Heb. 6:17.  The inheritance Christians receive from God’s covenant with Abraham gives faithful Christians full rights as children of God.  Please read Gal. 4:1-7.  “Children of promise” were the true “Israel of God” from Abraham to Christ; just as God’s church is today (Gal. 6:16).  Spiritual Israel was the remnant God chose (God’s elect) to be His people; even during the Levitical Priesthood (Rom. 9:11, 27).  God’s church is the spiritual remnant and the elect of God today (Rom. 11:5; I Pet. 1:1).

The value of the Levitical Priesthood and the Law of Moses will be explored in more detail in Lesson Eight.  However, to understand the seriousness of Israel’s crisis please consider how far Israel had degenerated spiritually:  At one point in their journey to Canaan God said to Moses, “I have seen this people, they are a stiff-necked people indeed!  Let Me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven.  And I will make you into a great nation, stronger and more numerous than they.”  Deut. 9:13, 14.  Sadly, at some point during the four centuries Israel sojourned in Egypt, most had lost faith in the covenants God made with their forefathers.

God remained faithful to His promise to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites for the home of their nation.  Moses led them out of slavery by the power of God because of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He patiently tolerated Israel’s lack of righteousness and integrity for forty years before He fulfilled His covenant with their forefathers (Deut. 9:4-6).  “Children of promise” is the true term for identifying God’s people among the mass of the descendants of Abraham and Sarah:  It was never physical Israel (John 8:33-41).

Christians understand our spirit came from God (Eccl. 12:7).  This same spirit is our present “self.”  Our “selves” developed into our present character and personality based on the environment in which we have lived.  Peoples’ inner-man is spiritual; therefore, God’s eternal interest was not in physical Israel.  Physical Israel will die like all other people.  The land of Canaan served its purpose for the physical separation of Israel from idol worshippers.  It also served Israel’s physical needs for a time.  The land area God gave to physical Israel has no value for the sanctification of spiritual Israel today.  John, the Baptist, warned the Pharisees and Sadducees about claiming their physical identity with Abraham as their identity as children of God.  He said, “I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”  Matt. 3:9.

Thus, in the mind of God, only the faithful remnant of Abraham’s descendants is identified as his spiritual offspring (Rom. 11:5, 6).  This is the truth at this very hour.  In order to fully understand this truth please read Paul’s allegory for the churches in Galatia about Sarah and Hagar.  See Gal. 4:21-31.  The principle for identifying God’s people who have lived “under the sun” from Abraham until Jesus returns is set forth in the following scripture.

It is not as though God’s word had failed.  For not all who have descended from Israel are Israel.  Nor because they are his descendants are they Abraham’s children.  On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’  In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.  Rom. 9:6-8

The intent of the remainder of this lesson is to understand how Christians, including people with both Jew and Gentile backgrounds, have always been included in the covenant of promise.  The church Jesus purchased with His own blood for His Father identifies with “spiritual Israel.”  Faithful Israelites were children of promise and Christians are children of promise.  See Acts 20:28; Rom. 11:26; Phil. 3:2-4, 20, 21; I Thess. 2:13, 14.  This is the new covenant in Christ’s blood (Matt. 26:28).  God’s promise to Abraham was, “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  Gen. 12:3.  Of course, God’s promises must be accepted with genuine faith “made perfect” by the believer’s behavior when tested (Jas. 2:22; I Pet. 1:6-9).  Paul explained to the saints in Rome how the middle wall God created between Jew and Gentile was not a permanent wall:

What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As He says in Hosea: I will call them ‘My people’ who are not My people; and I will call her ‘My beloved one’ who is not my beloved one, and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’  Rom. 9:23-26

The question we now want to answer is this:  “How do Gentiles and physical Israelites become a child of Abraham and heirs according to God’s promise?”  This called for a change of priesthood and a change of law after Jesus Christ returned to the right hand of His Father as Christians’ “Prince and Savior.”  Acts 5:31; Heb. 7:12.  God was ready to offer a new covenant through Jesus’ blood (Matt. 26:28).  This covenant also demanded a sacrifice for sin that would remove guilt from the conscience of obedient believers (Heb. 10:1-4).   Christians live guilt free so the Holy Spirit can fellowship us this very hour (Acts 5:32).  This study will be taken up later; however, let it be said at this point:  “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on all.”  Rom. 11:32.  This opened the door of faith for the Gentiles (Acts 11:18; 14:27).  It also left open the door of faith for the Jews who rejected Jesus (Rom. 10:11-13).  This is how it happened:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.  Gal. 3:26-29

God promised to “create in Himself (Jesus Christ) one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them (Jew and Gentile) to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility.” Eph. 2:15, 16.  How God would bless all nations remained a great mystery for centuries; but Paul claimed he had been given the answer (Eph. 3:2).  This is it!

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together in one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.  Eph. 3:6

Thus today God’s people are still “children of promise.” After putting on Christ in the final process of our new birth, and thereby becoming a child of Abraham; simultaneously, a born again Christian becomes a child of God by putting on Christ.  This happens because Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God and also a descendant of Abraham through Mary in His incarnate nature.  Christians are graced with all spiritual blessings “in Christ.” This is our inheritance through God’s covenant with Abraham.   We remain “children of promise” in regard to our future inheritance on Judgment Day (I Pet. 1:3-5).  This will be explored in future lessons.

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